The way we watch sports is changing. While plenty of people are still tuning into events like Thursday Night Football through traditional TV broadcasts, there are an increasing number of alternatives to take in sporting events — it’s no secret that more people are moving away from cable subscriptions and choosing streaming services.
Twitch has been doing things a little differently. The Amazon-owned streaming platform is best known for being where most people go to watch video games, but over the last few years, Twitch and Amazon Prime Video have expanded their offerings. One of its most popular categories is “Just Chatting,” where streamers won’t actually play a video game, but instead will sit there on stream and have a conversation with their viewers. This catch-all has allowed many streamers to try and break out from their normal streams and try something new. Now there are streamers who cook, put together PCs, or host podcasts on the platform.
It only made sense that live sports would follow. Anyone with the Twitch app has likely noticed that they usually get a notification advertising Thursday Night Football games. Twitch and Amazon Prime Video are getting in the live sports market, but they’re doing it the way that Twitch knows best: personality-driven content. One such personality is Kimmi Chex, whose prep for a broadcast on Amazon Prime Video sounds no different than a TV broadcast.
“I am a total connoisseur of all NFL,” Chex tells Uproxx. “I work here as an in-studio host and analyst at the NFL Network and the NFL Media Group here in L.A. So I eat, breathe, and sleep NFL games and NFL football. So, the prep for me is really just understanding the teams, understanding the matchups, and the main storylines as well, because as you probably know, if you just look at the last week or two weeks of NFL news every single day, there are constant changes and constant things that we have to be monitoring, and understanding those impacts and how that plays into the game.”
I am endlessly grateful. pic.twitter.com/DZCdqHdyhV
— Kimmi (@kimmichex) December 1, 2021
A traditional TV broadcast features a play-by-play commentator, a color analyst, and a sideline reporter. The format is familiar, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of viewer interaction. That’s where Chex and the team over at Twitch look to differentiate themselves. While they still watch the game and discuss it, they’re doing so with the hope of interacting with viewers. During broadcasts, Chex is reading and interacting with the chat as these games happen, getting direct feedback from those who are watching.
“The Twitch format completely turns everything on its head,” Chex says. “Now you have this instantaneous way to see what your viewers are thinking and questions they’re asking, and understand on the fly how you can pivot your way of telling information and covering the game so that the people watching you live can understand it better. So, I think the favorite thing for me this season and working with Twitch, and having our broadcast on there, is having that continual conversation not only with my cohosts, but with our fans.”
For some, this new format of watching games can sound a little weird. For Chex, it doesn’t feel like interacting with strangers. Instead, it feels more like talking with the same group of people you see every week at your local sports bar. Chex has started recognizing usernames as she’s done the broadcast, and that familiarity is exciting for both her and the viewers. It creates a sense of community by bringing a bunch of people together to watch football.
“It’s been so fun to see our fans tune in each and every week,” Chex says. “Like, we have our regulars and it’s so fun to see their usernames and their Twitch handles pop up every single week and be like, ‘Hey, what’s up, our friend’s back!’ Because you feel like you start to kind of build a bond with them and it really, you know, it solidifies [that] we’re doing something right and we’re giving them what they want, because they want to come back each and every week.”
Some people prefer to watch something like Thursday Night Football from an analytical perspective, or maybe they’re interested in the gambling lines. In Chex’s case, there’s a community that wants someone to hang out and talk about football. People gravitate towards her broadcasts because they see she’s a fan just like them and is going to talk about the game from her perspective.
“A few weeks ago, the Packers were facing the Cardinals and it’s a huge NFC showdown, and it’s a crazy game,” Chex says. “We’re fans of the game, right? We make predictions every single week of which team we think is going to win. And that game literally came down to the last, like, 14 seconds, and Kyler Murray threw a pick in the end zone and we lost our minds, and having that instantaneous reaction with each other was invaluable and it was so fun. And I think it was fun for the viewers as well, because as much as we want to be buttoned up broadcasters, like, we’re people, too, and having that instantaneous reaction together as this fun little niche Twitch community, it’s beyond anything I could have ever imagined.”
Consider how many different mediums there are to watch sports now, even beyond something like Twitch — the semi-weekly Monday Night Football broadcast featuring Peyton and Eli Manning, for example, has been wildly successful. Every year around the College Football Playoff, ESPN will roll out unique broadcasts for people to watch, like the coaches film room. CBS and Nickelodeon had a special playoff broadcast last year catered to children and plan to expand those offerings.
Leagues are recognizing that there are more people out there you can reach if you’re willing to present sports broadcasts in different ways. Chex and her Twitch broadcasts are just another way for them to do that.
“If you want to go to a sports betting niche, you can find a feed and a stream that can do that.” Chex says. “If you want to have the X’s and O’s and the scouts feed, really breaking down the plays, you can find that. If you want to sit and watch a casual, fun game, then you can come hang out with us on Thursdays on NFL Next Live and you can watch the game without feeling like you’re being spoken down to, or confused, or that it’s too much to handle. If you’re a more casual fan, or if you’re a really avid NFL fan, you have the option to get in there and ask a very, very specific question to NFL legends and have your question answered live.
“So I absolutely think it’s the next wave of sports content and sports broadcasting, but probably just content in general, right?” she continues. “We are constant consumers of the things we want. We have phones. We have laptops where, at the click of a button, at tap of our fingers, we can find exactly what we want and our content has to reflect that, and Twitch and Amazon are perfecting that model.”